1. BeerAdvocate on your phone?! True story. Try the beta now.

Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Yards Brewing Co.

Extra Special Ale (ESA)Extra Special Ale (ESA)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
84
good

500 Ratings
THE BROS
85
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 500
Reviews: 258
rAvg: 3.72
pDev: 12.63%


Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co. visit their website
Pennsylvania, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Our first ever and most beloved brew, ESA helped establish a following for cask-conditioned beer in the United States back in the ‘90s. East Kent Golding hops give this English style ale a subtle spiciness, which compliments its strong malt backbone. Hints of chocolate and caramel round out this deep chestnut colored ale. Floral, earthy, smooth.

(Beer added by: pezoids on 12-01-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Reviewers | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Extra Special Ale (ESA) Alström Bros
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 500 | Reviews: 258 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of ThePaintedGrey
ThePaintedGrey

Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz. bottle poured into pint glass. Reviewing from notes.

A: Pours a dark copper with a small light khaki colored head. Head retention is weak. Head fades down to a small ring of bubbles along the edges. Some semblances of lacing left behind.

S: Some caramel malts with a fair amount of grain and breadiness. Light hint of herbal hops. Maybe a little bit of dark fruit underneath, but there was too many aromas present in the room to decipher specifics.

T: Similar to the taste. Caramel malt, slightly burnt, balanced nicely by hop bitterness. Bitterness is confined nicely, as to appeal to those not into full-on hop assaults. Some nice bready, yeasty flavors paired with light hops in the finish.

M: Very solid medium body with good carbonation. Crisp, but smooth on the palate and drinks easy. Goes down great and doesn't fill you up too much.

O: Not a world-class brew, but a damn good offering from fellow Philly locals. This one would truly shine in a bar setting, or even at a dinner table. On its own, there's better choices, but this definitely isn't disappointing. Worth a shot.

Serving type: bottle

02-25-2014 02:11:22 | More by ThePaintedGrey
Photo of Slatetank
Slatetank

Pennsylvania

3.6/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I had this from the bottle, enjoyed chilled in a teku purchased from Giant Beer Garden & eatery

The color is walnut brown with translucent clarity and thick beige head with average bead and lace. The smell is toasted grain with mild yeast esters bringing a slight creamy sweet aroma. The feel is good with moderately high carbonation mild roasted texture and creamy semi-dry finish with mild sweetness in general.

The flavor has a subtle toffee and toasted malt presence with yeast bringing out a woody hop flavor near the middle with a slight alcohol warmth in the taste with slight spice and creamy caramel. Overall not a bad beer, pretty malty example of the style and on the high end of the alcohol for and ESB, but pretty tasty I would enjoy this on draft if offered.

Serving type: bottle

12-03-2013 14:53:39 | More by Slatetank
Photo of Dix90
Dix90

Pennsylvania

3.1/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: dark brown with a slight reddish hue. Bubbly white head with little to no lacing.

Aroma: Spiciness and caramel malts up front followed by earthy tones. Sweetness kicks in then the slight burn of alcohol in the back of the nostrils.

Taste: The taste follows the nose with spicy hops, sweet maltiness and a toasty roastiness. Taste sits happily on the tongue with a bitter warmness.

Mouthfeel: full feel that swishes pleasantly. Sits nicely on the whole mouth.

Overall: very enjoyable, as part of the yards variety pack I enjoy it as often as all the others in the pack (except the brawler). A good but not great beer.

Serving type: bottle

11-11-2013 22:55:56 | More by Dix90
Photo of scotorum
scotorum

Massachusetts

4.23/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Sam Adams English Nonic glass

a: Deep clear amber, finger thick off-white head receded to even surface film and considerable lacing.

s: Caramel malt.

t: Caramel malt forward, some hop balance behind. Sweet to dry finish.

m: Moderate, nice and smooth.

o: A very good American representation of an English style ESB. Not as malty sweet as it might be, or rather more bitter than it might be, but that may be the result of the American influence. I would buy this again next time I'm in the Philadelphia area, since although it is highly a regarded brewery in the eastern PA/NJ area, it is not widely distributed.

Serving type: bottle

10-25-2013 22:55:31 | More by scotorum
Photo of Jeffreysan
Jeffreysan

Maryland

3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous dark caramel/brown color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that disappeared into a thin lacing of foam that covered the entirety of the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very malty with some slight roasty notes too. Very bready, with some slight herbal notes.

Taste: Slight malt flavors in the front, followed by a hoppy finish, but not too hoppy. Some good caramel notes too, but overall a little thin in the flavor. Not impressed.

Mouthfeel: Medium. The beer is slightly smooth, with some good carbonation to tickle the tastebuds.

Overall: This is a pretty good beer, but not one of my favorite beers from yards. I much prefer the Tavern Ale, Tavern Spruce and George Washington Tavern Porter over this ESA.

Serving type: bottle

08-29-2013 21:01:08 | More by Jeffreysan
Photo of DrDemento456
DrDemento456

Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - One dark ESB clear in color with a 1/2 inch of mocha head.
S - Smell is well... mild. Hops and malts with some tea leaves but its mostly faint.
T+M - Quite smooth tasting with mild herbal hops, some bready tones, bitter tea leaves, and a clean malt sweetness. Despite it's higher than average ABV it drinks like to medium in body.

OverallI may get this again, or the IPA but most likely the DIPA. Damn tasty!

Serving type: bottle

08-22-2013 05:32:27 | More by DrDemento456
Photo of metter98
metter98

New York

3.69/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is very dark reddish amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high light beige head that gradually died down, leaving a thin head covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light aromas of herbal hops and earthy yeast are present in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, except that the malts impart light amounts of toasted malt flavors and faint hints of sweetness while the hops lend a very slight amount of bitterness.
M: It feels a bit more than light-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very easy to drink and seems to have a good balance between the malts and hops.

Serving type: bottle

07-16-2013 00:39:05 | More by metter98
Photo of WissBrauSean
WissBrauSean

Pennsylvania

3.68/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this beer at about 55 degrees F from a bottle into a standard pint and it has a very deep amber to mahogany colour that is crystal clear with a one finger tan head of super fine bubbles that stay as a nice thin cap on the beer and leave and excellent dragon tooth pattern on the glass.

The aroma is of toasted malts, bread, and raisins with a faint whiff of corn in the background. I could be confusing that with something else, but it resembles corn. It's really pleasant considering.

The taste starts off sweet on the tongue and as it travels back it releases dark fruits with bread and as the beer comes to a close hop bitters that seem earthy to me coat the tongue and the back of the tongue where some spicy black pepper comes through leaving a mild but dry end to the beer that seems slightly more bitter than some ESAs. And if you wait long enough, you will taste a medicinal taste like Band-Aid's smell or like pine sol. It's very faint, but I see what people are talking about. That may be the hops. Interesting. It's like a band-aid on my tongue. I'm not sure that I like that.

The mouthfeel is a bit silky and sweet with a medium body, but it leaves a coat on my tongue that is a product of the dry hops I am assuming. The carbonation is around moderate.

Overall, I am not too happy with this beer. It's good, don't get me wrong, but don't think I will seek this out in bottle again. I have had this on tap and it was a different experience. A much better one. The corn aroma and the Band_Aid flavours really put me off as well as it was a bit too bitter for my taste and, I feel, the style if indeed it is an Extra Special/Strong Ale. I will still give it a mid to high 3's out of five. It's not crap, but it's just not for me.

Serving type: bottle

04-16-2013 01:23:39 | More by WissBrauSean
Photo of tone77
tone77

Pennsylvania

3.36/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a bronze color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, a bit of malts. Taste is well balanced malts an hops, a bit light, easy drinking but just seems to be lacking any punch. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a decent beer, but nothing great.

Serving type: bottle

04-04-2013 11:22:06 | More by tone77
Photo of mooseo
mooseo

Pennsylvania

3.78/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into tulip.

A - Dark brown-mahogany with a small off-white head.

S - Sweet toasted malt, light dark fruit, nuts, and herbal spice.

T - Bready and nutty malts, earthy hops, and subtle dark fruit. Caramel, yeast, and slight spice. A tad bitter on the finish, with more toasted grain and nuttiness coming through.

M - Exceptionally smooth and silky. Medium body, average carbonation, somewhat dry finish.

O - This is a nice beer full of malty goodness. A slight bitter hop character tames the sweetness. Very soft mouthfeel. A good beer to sit back and relax with. It would be easy to drink a few of these in one sitting.

Serving type: bottle

03-23-2013 20:54:49 | More by mooseo
Photo of mactrail
mactrail

California

3.03/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Large and malty. Great big flavors of juniper, resins, dank malt. Tastes like it's been sweetened and spiced, like some kind of holiday grog. Tastes good at first sip, but gets weirder as you drink.

Served in a big English imperial pint nonic. Pulled from the fake hand pump. Plenty of carbonation and a nice sudsy foam, with lots of lacing in the glass. No aroma to speak of. Winey and tastes like some new kind of Long Island Iced Tea. On the cask at Local 44 in Philadelphia. Interesting but I don't get it. [Transcribed from notes written on 05/30/2012 visit.]

Serving type: cask

03-10-2013 06:21:03 | More by mactrail
Photo of garuda
garuda

Pennsylvania

4.04/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Deep copper, hazed, white cap has good retention with some lace.

S/T - Sweet bready caramel, toasted malt base balanced out with some bittering pine hops in the finish. Touch of spice.

M - Medium body, lower carb level, stays smooth, finishes clean.

O - Nicely brewed to style, easily drinkable, pleasant flavors.

Serving type: on-tap

03-08-2013 18:00:15 | More by garuda
Photo of DrinkSlurm
DrinkSlurm

Connecticut

4.04/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from cask into standard pint glass at standard tap in Philadelphia. Pours a nice see through brown golden with creamy head. It looks awesome...but how can a brew poured from an engine look bad...
Smell is strong noble hop and nice sweet malt. Taste is smooth easy hop and malt. So smooth and drinkable. Really nice brew on cask. Just not sure how it would translate to bottle...very worth it from cask.

Serving type: cask

02-13-2013 22:28:34 | More by DrinkSlurm
Photo of gr0g
gr0g

New Jersey

3.13/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Review from notes taken on 01/15/2012.

Dark mahogany in color with a one-finger white head. Some lace curtains are left behind. Aroma is primarily of caramel and toffee notes from the malt, while a floral hop note backs them up.

Toffee malt and fruity esters on the palate. Hops contribute a a pronounced bitterness, but one that's well below IPA levels. A slight solvent presence on the finish detracts from the experience. I think I'd pay a little extra and pick up some Fuller's ESB over this.

Serving type: bottle

01-19-2013 00:59:34 | More by gr0g
Photo of cbutova
cbutova

Massachusetts

3.68/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had a few bottles of this out of my variety case so far. Yards is a solid brewery most definitely.

A- Poured into a pint glass with a very dark red, brown-looking body. A small light tan head forms to about a finger in size with decent retention. The foamy, creamy cap ends up with nice thick ring leaving nice webs of fairly thick lace.

S- This beer certainly has the feel of an English Ale. An interesting toasty, nutty and roasted malt profile is inviting. The yeast gives a nice dark fruit aroma along with bread and spice notes.

T- Fairly malty and yeast forward here too but the hops join in on it all. Dark fruits with a very slight medicinal taste are the main flavor I get along with a mix of yeast bread, spices, raisin, toast, roasted malts and some buttery caramel malts. Hops give off that European herbal, spicy and floral taste.

MF- Moderately thick body with a creamy and smooth overall consistency. Moderate level of carbonation with a silky feel. Slight spicy bitterness on the palate in the finish.

A fairly solid ESA/B but the dark fruit seems to get a bit more medicinal feeling than I would like it to be towards the end of the experience. Still another addition to a solid Yards lineup from what I have tasted.

Serving type: bottle

01-11-2013 01:45:32 | More by cbutova
Photo of SolipsismalCat
SolipsismalCat

Pennsylvania

3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A: Clear dark amber with one-and-a-half-finger, off-white, creamy, foamy head that lasted several minutes and left a nice film. Pretty good lacing.

S: Caramel malt and a hint of dark fruit.

T: Light sweetness and light to moderate bitterness. Toasted malt. Light butter and nut flavor.

M: Medium bodied with fizzy carbonation. Slightly smooth.

O: Pretty good ESB. Looks nice in the glass and has the right flavor. A bit mild though.

Serving type: bottle

01-04-2013 01:59:10 | More by SolipsismalCat
Photo of barczar
barczar

Kentucky

3.53/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear deep amber with a frothy half inch cream head that dissipates slowly, leaving spotty lacing.

Deeply toasted malt, dark fruit, and caramel form the initial aroma. Nuttiness, a touch of roast, and earthy and floral hops round out the profile.

Floral hops abound in the flavor, carrying throughout, into an earthy, fairly bitter finish. A backbone of toasted malt ties in with fruity esters and a minerally character, adding complexity.

Body is moderate to full, with moderate carbonation and noticeable alcohol warmth. There's a bit of astringency at the finish.

Kind of an odd combination, with fruity esters and floral hops really dominating. Don't think I've had a beer with more floral hop flavor. The minerally quality and pretty bitter finish make things even weirder.

Serving type: bottle

01-03-2013 20:00:49 | More by barczar
Photo of cattersley
cattersley

Ontario (Canada)

4.13/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Penn State is different, even coming from Canada, when it comes to beer sales. I picked up a 2-4 mixed, and actually, it was a sound investment for the hotel after Sesame Place. LOL.

Honestly, all of there beers were steller including this one. Colour, taste, smell, and mouth feel I wouldn't put at a traditional ESB (British), but for a American take, 'pretty spot on eh'. This had a great balance of the malt and hops as per par, and for most British ESB's in the 5% - 3.5% range, at 6%, they hid this very well!

Serving type: bottle

12-15-2012 00:56:19 | More by cattersley
Photo of Skepticalfriend
Skepticalfriend

Pennsylvania

3.43/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A hint of staleness, but the flavor grows on you. There's an interesting tangy-ness. In the first one I drank, it seemed stronger. Maybe it's what I was eating. Airy bitterness on the finish. Lingers nicely. Tangy-ness yes, but very little sweetness - which is something I like. First drinks felt flat, but then it got a bit more body. Do beers change like wine after they're open?

Serving type: bottle

11-16-2012 02:36:38 | More by Skepticalfriend
Photo of socon67
socon67

New York

3.6/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Amber pour with a biege foam. Clumps of lacing around the pint glass. Foam retains well.

S - Smells of caramel malt, spices, and a little hoppy scent.

T - Flavors of caramel, light malts, and brown sugar. Finish has a mild bitterness. As with all the Yards beers I've had, this is a surprisingly complex beer.

M - Very sessionable. Light bodied, and has a raspy bite in the finish. Nothing fancy; just a light feeling ESB that starts sweet and ends bitter.]

O - If I had the option of Yards on Long Island I'd be happy. A nice craft beer that could eaily lure the BMC crowd.

Serving type: bottle

09-22-2012 17:51:52 | More by socon67
Photo of TheMultiYeast
TheMultiYeast

Pennsylvania

3.65/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours clear amber with a big honkin head. Great layers of lacing down the glass.

Smell is sweet, figgy, strangely metallic...

Taste is also metallic, grassy, sweet again, overripe dark fruit, quick bitter jab at the end.

Substantial brew but not my favorite from Yards.

Serving type: bottle

09-10-2012 01:40:38 | More by TheMultiYeast
Photo of larryi86
larryi86

Delaware

3.98/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass

A- A Dark copper color with a two finger off-white head.

S- Floral and earthy hops, toasted malts, some caramel malts, a little weak.

T- Again floral and earthy hops in the finish with a touch of dark fruits, toasted malts, caramel malts, roasted notes, much bolder than the nose.

M- Smooth, a little creamy, medium body.

O- A solid beer that I would love to try on cask. I am really starting to try ESB and I am really enjoying this. Definitely will be pick this up again.

Serving type: bottle

09-06-2012 01:04:59 | More by larryi86
Photo of kylehay2004
kylehay2004

Florida

3.85/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thick circumferential lacing on a c;ear amber body.

S: musty earthy hops with caramel malts and a light citrus note.

T: very nicely hopped ESB with a full toasted and caramel malt base. Very flavorful for the style.

M: medium body and light carbonation.

Overall: Flavorful ESB, true to the style for sure.

Serving type: on-tap

08-07-2012 01:19:38 | More by kylehay2004
Photo of jman42
jman42

New Jersey

3.95/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Grabbed the bottle from the fridge thinking it was going to be a 2X IPA for some reason... As I poured, smelled, tasted, etc I figured out it was an ESB

A = Rich amber color. Nice fluffy off-white head that was pretty persistent. Lacing hung onto the sides of the glass even now that the level is 3 inches lower.

S = Thinking it was an IPA, I was wondering why I was noticing so much more of a maltiness to it. Some hop-inspired floral undertones, but the malts prevail.

T = The maltiness really comes through with a fair amount of an ESB's bitterness at the end.

M = Definitely not watery. Good body with the bitter taste lingering long after I swallowed.

O = Now that I verified it is an ESB, I'm quite impressed.

Serving type: bottle

07-14-2012 22:15:22 | More by jman42
Photo of Darkmagus82
Darkmagus82

Virginia

3.4/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on cask in a 10 oz chalice glass

Appearance – The beer is served a deeper amber color with a big off white head. Upon fading the head levels a moderate amount of lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The nose is mainly of roasted malt, but mixed with it are notes of dark fruit (cherry and prune) as well as some light earthy hop aromas.

Taste – The taste begins heaviest of roasted malt with some sweeter caramel notes. As the taste advances however the caramel sweet fades and more hop flavors come to the tongue. The hop begins with just some more earthy like flavors, but then lighter floral flavors develop as well. In the end of the taste the roasty flavors and hop flavors with the lack of sweetness leave a slightly bitter aftertaste on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the light to medium side with the low cask carbonation giving it the classic cask creamy feel. The smoothness of the brew really suits the roasty flavors as well as the more floral and earthy hop flavors and overall suit the beer quite well.

Overall – Easy drinking and a pretty good taste. A brew and one to try if you get a chance.

Serving type: cask

07-12-2012 00:34:26 | More by Darkmagus82
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Extra Special Ale (ESA) from Yards Brewing Co.
84 out of 100 based on 500 ratings.